'Govt done little to check over-the-counter drugs'

Medics want action against chemists violating laws

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of “drug addiction menace” as a “national pain” in his radio programme “Mann Ki Baat”, medical bodies in the Capital said on Monday that the Centre and the state health departments have done little so far to combat drug addiction among youth.

While rehabilitation of tobacco and alcohol addicts has received some attention, experts say helping out those addicted to prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, food and sex has been ignored.

“Why can’t the government train doctors to rehabilitate addicts at a large-scale?” said Dr K K Aggarwal, Honorary General Secretary Elect, Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Representatives of the Delhi Medical Council (DMC) and the IMA said the medical bodies have appealed to the government several times in the past to clamp down on chemists selling drugs without prescriptions, which invariably leads to drug abuse.

But the government had turned a deaf ear. With Modi raising the topic in public, doctors raised doubts if the situation will change.

“More than 90 per cent of chemists in Delhi are violating the laws. We have written to the Drug Controller to implement the Drug Laws. The scheduled X category of drugs which are often the highest points of drug abuse are also sold without prescriptions. Only prescriptions by allopathic doctors should be considered by chemists in these cases,” said Dr Anil Bansal, Chairperson, Anti-Quackery Cell, DMC.

The penalty for quacks, who are present in the Capital in large numbers, are relaxed, feel experts.

“Currently, the penalty for prescribing drugs is a fine of Rs 1,000 and a year’s imprisonment. Crosspathy is also practised randomly. We have raised the issue several times with the Ministry that the punishment should be raised to three years and the offence be made non-bailable,” said Dr Narendra Saini, IMA Secretary General.

Audit of chemists and stocks should be made intensive to avoid drug abuse, he added. 

Online module

The IMA will soon launch online modules for doctors to hone the know-how of rehabilitating patients of drug addiction.

The online course will be aimed at educating general physicians on how to spot youths with symptoms of addiction. Handling drug de-addiction should not be a specialised forte anymore, feel doctors.

“IMA will launch a comprehensive online programme for general physicians. People do not know whom to turn to in cases of addiction. Cases of food addiction and sex addiction go unnoticed. There are few medical programmes to handle these cases. Addiction to carbohydrates is extremely common like addiction to cough syrups and narcotics is,” said Dr Aggarwal.

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